20 Tips That Will Help You Ace Your Next Job Interview

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Image of the legs of a few people sitting outside an interview room

With Singapore’s unemployment rate at a six-year high (2.2% in Q1 2017), the overall job scenario in the city is playing on all our minds. With thousands of people being laid off every quarter (4,000 in Q1 2017), job security isn’t coming easy. In such a scenario, it is prudent to prepare well. And here’s some help. Get through your next job interview, with some of the best interview tips from the experts! Read on.

1. Research, research and some more research!

About the company, your role, competitors in the industry, the person interviewing you- everything! Thanks to the internet, finding information is not as difficult as it was earlier. So, read up as much as you can before your interview.

As U.S.-based sales development manager Julianne Sweat says, “Just as any good sales person prepares for a discovery call, you should prepare for your interview.

Do some background work on everyone you’ll be interviewing with. Know what’s going on in our company and ask questions about recent events.” Also, know the name of your interviewer and pronounce it properly when you meet him or her!

2. Smile and keep a positive attitude

We all like happy people around us. You are also most likely to remember a former colleague for her affable attitude. So be that positive person. Author James Altucher says, “When I meet someone, the first thing I wonder is NOT whether or not I like them, but whether or not they like me. Smiling is the best way to let them know you like them. And be genuine about it. Fake smiles are creepy.”

3. K.I.S.S.

Keep your resume short and simple! Brevity is an art and it is best to spend time learning it. Andrea Hough, a 25-year HR veteran rightly says, “Make it easy for recruiters to see that you’re the perfect fit for the role by highlighting your core skills at the top of your resume and in your cover letter. Don’t make busy recruiters go rummaging through countless bullet points to find your relevant experience.” Logical!

4. Answer that dreaded question confidently

We have all been there. More often than not, the interviewer will ask you the worst of all questions – What are your weaknesses? Anything you want to say might sound wrong. However, here is a super tip from best-selling author Bernard Marr – “Instead of making general statements such as ‘I am bossy’, you might want to qualify this to specific situations along the lines of ‘When there is a lot of pressure on a project I can come across as bossy’. This way you show that it is not a weakness you have all the time but one that you are aware of in that situation.” – There! Sorted.

Related: 9 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Job

5. Be real

More than anything else this is less work. Putting up a show is unnecessary stress, so it is best to stay genuine. Betty Liu, founder and CEO of Radiate, Inc., says, “Unless you’re a trained actor, most people can’t pursue a persona that’s not themselves well – and certainly not in a situation where they’re also being judged. Just relax and be yourself, which you’ll find is sometimes a lot harder to do than slipping into an Herve Leger dress.”

6. Address those resume woes

Image of an interviewer examining the resume of a candidate

Creating that perfect resume almost feels like trying to sneeze with your eyes open. Pamela Franklin, a recruiter, confesses that hiring managers spend less than 10 seconds looking at your resume. Heartbreaking, but true. She says, “No one really cares what your GPA was when you were in college 5 years ago other than you! And no, you should not include your high school information under Education – EVER!” Okay then!

Related: 3 Common Mistakes Singaporeans Make with Resumes

7. Know the perfect length of an answer

Many of us don’t get this right, especially during an interview. CEO and author Lou Adler says, “In an interview, you’re judged not just on the content of your answers, but also the quality of how they’re presented. The best answers are 1-2 minutes long. If your answers are too short you’re assumed to lack ability or insight, or interest. Worse, you force the interviewer to work too hard. Interviewees who talk too much are considered self-absorbed, boring and imprecise.” Hmm…some food for thought.

8. Have a not-work-related conversation

Interviews aren’t transaction, they are conversations. As Leesha Bush, a recruiter, says, “Make the connection that is not work related. Talk about the city, hobbies, things you enjoy BUT please stay away from controversial topics like POLITICS!” Also, talking about other things shows the interviewer that you also have a life beyond work and are a well-rounded personality with different interests.

Related: 10 Hipster Hobbies to Jio Your Friends to Join

9. Don’t look at your resume

Adler says, “During the interview you must not look at your resume. This is a sign you’re either nervous (which you probably will be), or you fabricated something. Interviewers expect you to know your work history completely, including companies, dates, job titles, roles, responsibilities, and key accomplishments. To help recall these important details, write them down on a few 3×5 cards before the interview. (Of course, don’t look at them during the interview.)”

10. Maintain eye-contact

This is a no-brainer. Confident people maintain healthy eye-contact. “We all know that eye contact is important—but there is a sweet spot for eye contact. So don’t be afraid to take in the view or look around while you talk—just make sure you are making eye contact as they speak to you,” says behavioral investigator and author Vanessa Van Edwards.

11. Show the soft side

Taking about the ideal resume, Franklin says, “You’re more than just skills – Are you involved in professional groups or volunteer opportunities? If so, list these on your resume as well! Hiring managers like to see when candidates are involved in their community, either in roles specific to the industry or volunteer work in the community!” Interesting.

12. Don the Sherlock cap

This should be part of your research, but we are calling it out here again. However important that job may be for you, it is vital that the company you interview with is the one that you will be happy working for.

Hough agrees. “Before you apply, check out what other employees and candidates have to say about the company on Glassdoor. This will let you know whether the opportunity is worth pursuing – allowing you to be more selective with your applications, creating a better world for all.” Makes so much sense.

13. Make an impression

Image of a job applicant shaking hands with her interviewer

O’Donnell says, “While waiting in reception, put your phone away and pull out a business book. People will notice the title you’re reading and it can lead to a great opening conversation when the hiring manager comes to get you. It also shows you make good use of your spare time.” Plus, it is a great reason to not stare at that smartphone screen for once!

Also, always show up for your interview early and leave home much ahead in time, taking any traffic snarls into account. And of course, dress well – all these go a long way in making a great impression.

Related: 5 Myths About Job Hopping

14. One for those phone interviews

Your first interview may just be on the phone! In that case this is a great tip. Julianne Sweat says, “Stand up when you’re talking, and don’t underestimate the power of smiling.” She adds, “On the phone, be sure you’re in a place with great cell phone reception. It’s always good to confirm with the interviewer that she is able to hear you clearly. There’s nothing more aggravating than a phone interview that’s cutting in and out.”

15. Don’t share everything!

4word founder and author Diane Paddison says, “When it comes to family/life boundaries, I wouldn’t address it in an initial interview unless you’re actually asked directly about it. You always want to be honest, but that doesn’t mean you have to share everything about yourself right away. Focus first on the value that you bring to the company.”

16. Show you are ambitious

Recruitment guide and serial entrepreneur James Caan CBE says, “You will probably be asked questions like: ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time’. You need to follow up on this and see if the company offers you the chance of progression. A good company will not be put off by your ambition; in fact they will admire and encourage it.”

17. Make a great comeback

If you’re returning to the workforce after a period in retirement, career coach Jane Jackson says, “Update your resume with tangible accomplishments to prove that you are a professional who will add value to any organisation. Practice your interview technique to answer confidently when asked, ‘Why should we hire you?’ and prepare specific examples to demonstrate your capabilities.”

18. It’s all about the money, honey

Public speaker and writer Catherine Sorbara, says, “Negotiating your salary is a marathon, not a sprint. Create leverage before the negotiation starts by lining up multiple job interviews at a time. Anchor high before receiving an offer. Get the recruiter or hiring manager to make the first offer. Never be impressed with the first offer and say you’ll have to appeal to a higher authority at home.” Quite helpful.

Check out our take on how to negotiate for a higher salary at your next job interview here.

19. Question the interviewer

J.T. O’Donnell, founder and CEO of WorkItDaily.com, has a pretty interesting tip here. She says you must ask the hiring manager, “What pleasantly surprised you the most about working here?” This question lets the hiring manager go back to their own first few months on the job and lets her or him reminisce about that exciting time. It also lets them sell you on the pluses of working there.” Never thought of that for establishing an instant positive connect!

Related: 7 Smart Questions to Ask at the End of an Interview and 4 Not So Smart Ones

20. The perfect end

Write back after the interview. Recruiter Lisa VanWyk highlights the value of saying thank you at the end of every interview. She says, “Say it in person at the end of the interview, and then send a quick thank-you email after you return home. It’s not just polite, it’s a reminder of who you are and that you are eager to prove that you’re a great fit for the job.” Right!

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